Over the past few years we’ve entered into the world of subscription services for entertainment, among other things. It started out with a few, but media companies have found the benefits of having their own streaming services outweigh selling their content to an existing service. At least, that’s what they think now, but what happens when people get subscription fatigue? It’s happening to me. Let me start by first listing all the entertainment subscriptions that I currently pay for.
A couple of months ago I decided to do something I never thought I would do. I cut the cord. Sort of.
In December I decided to cancel my cable. The bill was getting too high and I have been watching less and less traditional TV. Many of the shows I watch over the past few years have ended or I lost interest in them (looking at you The Walking Dead). Many of the shows I continued to watch I found I could watch the next day on Hulu, of which I was a subscriber. I also found many new shows that rivaled the quality of network and cable shows, even premium cable shows, on Hulu and Netflix. So, I made the decision to cut the cord.
Currently, I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon (a bonus of my Prime shipping subscription) and HBO Now. The only show that I currently watch but cannot get on these services is AMC’s Better Call Saul. Well, that was the case until this week. Charter, the cable company in my area, is offering their version of the Sling TV service called Charter Spectrum Stream. For $20 a month you get some popular cable channels (TBS, FX, ESPN, and AMC among others) plus either HBO or Showtime. So for $5 more a month I can get HBO plus some other cable channels including AMC for Better Call Saul. I can then cancel HBO Now. One of the other upsides to the service is that you get the local channels (even the alternate HD local channels that no one ever watches). This was great for me since, even with an antenna, I couldn’t get any local channels over the air (not entirely true. If I touched a co-ax cable to the window frame and grounding the signal, I could get 3-4 local channels. Trust me, it works).
This is almost TV as I want it to be. I am paying for the channels I watch the most and can watch my shows whenever I want without the added cost of a DVR. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve over the next few years as more and more people cut the cord and opt to watch TV in non-traditional ways. The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to watch Cardinals baseball this summer (without using MLB at Bat and a DNS routing service). I think sports will be the last hope that traditional cable and satellite subscriptions have. Once the various leagues wake up to the potential of offering sports without a cable subscription, I will be set. But I’m not holding my breath.
Hulu has added a subscription service. Not sure how successful it will be at $10 a month when content is limited and it will by no means replace traditional television subscriptions. Netflix’s Watch Instantly service offers much more content than Hulu does at around the same price.
Since I purchased my PS3 several months ago, I have come to the conclusion that it has been one of the best electronics purchases I have ever made, behind switching to Macs. Even though I’m not much of a gamer, I get tons of use out of my PS3. That’s not to say I don’t use my PS3 for games. In fact, I think I have more games for the PS3 already than I do for the Wii, which I’ve had for a few years. Titles like Assasin’s Creed 2, Modern Warfare 2, Red Dead Redemption, Modnation Racers and the most innovative game, Heavy Rain, are games that I could not pass up. But again, I’m just a casual gamer. What I really use my PS3 for is playing back video files/discs.
Sony might not always do everything right (betamax, minidisc, memory stick, UMD), but they got a lot right with the PS3, and that includes a Blu-Ray Player. The PS3 is an excellent Blu-Ray player, and while I only have a few Blu-Ray titles, the inclusion of the player alone made the heftier price tag for the console worth it. In case you were wondering, it also plays standard DVDs as well. Since I am a movie buff, my PS3 gets a lot of use playing video discs. Great games and graphics and built in Blu-Ray/DVD player still isn’t the tipping point for me though. Yes, those things are great, but what really made this one of my best purchases ever was Rivet. I’ve written about Rivet before, but in short, it allows me to stream music and video files from my Mac to my PS3, and the quality is fantastic. This is a must-have feature of any device serving as a media center.
Add the Netflix Watch Instantly disc to the rest and you have the (almost) perfect solution for a media center. Netflix streaming via the PS3 is also in HD, much better quality than you get when watching via a computer. I recently watched all 5 seasons of FX’s Rescue Me using the Netflix disc on the PS3. The only thing I wish I could do is stream shows/movies from places like Hulu. Unfortunately, the PS3 browser does not support the version of Flash needed for viewing sites like Hulu. I’m hoping someone like Rivet could step in with a work around. I really wish the television networks would realize that TVs just aren’t TVs anymore. They can do much more, and should allow their sites to be displayed on any device. If they would, the PS3 would be the ultimate device for my media center needs.